Directed by Gore Verbinski, starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport and Jonathan Pryce.

Johnny Depp's much-professed love of 'The Fast Show' always suggested there was another side to his acting talent just waiting to get out. He even appeared in a sketch during the final episode but sadly, it was in a straight-man role. Now, in one of those great but rare what ifs that becomes a wish fulfilled, here he is as a bungling pirate, showcasing the one 'Fast Show' character that got away and, more importantly, the coolest hero in any of this summer's blockbusters.

Reduced to a rowboat after one too many scrapes with the law, Jack Sparrow (Depp) is traipsing around the Caribbean looking for a ship to steal or a crew to con. His quest brings him to Port Royal, but the only thing in store for Jack in the garrison town is the noose. That is until Governor Swann's (Pryce) daughter Elizabeth (Knightley) is kidnapped and Jack joins forces with her childhood friend Will (Bloom) in a sort-of rescue bid.

While Will is motivated by his unrequited love for Elizabeth, Jack's reasons are far more refreshing. Elizabeth has been kidnapped by his former shipmate Captain Barbossa (Rush), a cut-throat who makes Jack look like chivalry incarnate. Barbossa robbed Jack's boat, The Black Pearl, years before and left him for dead on a desert island. Now he has taken Elizabeth because she holds the key to a curse which sees him and his cronies turn into zombies under the moonlight. If Barbossa kills her, he can pay off a blood debt and live again. And if you're confused by the plot it's nothing to how addled Jack is...

Admittedly, any film partly based on a ride at Disneyland does not inspire queue-for-an-hour confidence in punters. But this is the surprise and treat of the year - a two-hours-plus action fest whose wit and spirit leaves the competition smelling like last month's fish. It's got great sets, even better set pieces and a nod-and-wink humour that, aside from making you feel 10 again, shows up just how shortchanged we've all been by event movies.

Some of the fun is watching serious actors and up-and-coming stars taking cardboard characters and whooping it up. Knightley gives great corset, Bloom's Will mightn't be the sharpest but he restores some much needed cred to the cinematic 'tache while Rush plays Barbossa like he's just come straight over from central casting. And then there's Depp, and the rest of the film belongs to him.

In a career which has already had its share of standout roles from Edward Scissorhands to Ed Wood to Donnie Brasco, Depp's loveable rogue is the character who will cause you to ruin at least two friendships through your non-stop quoting of his pirate prattle. Looking like a cross between bad women's fashion and a late 80's metal casualty, Depp chews up the scenes, flashes his gold teeth and then chews up some more.

His Captain Jack is like the great grandfather of Richard E Grant's Withnail, often camp, always cunning and whose love of a good hustle far outweighs anything a damsel in distress may have to offer. The one-liners shoot by at such speed you may as well buy two tickets and if you're not still laughing at him a week later, it's probably best you go back up to your room to complete your latest thesis on 'The Matrix Reloaded'.

The only bad thing to say about this film is that they don't have a sequel in the can already. And anybody with a love of the ridiculous should start a campaign for one now. As Jack Sparrow himself would say, not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.

Flynn and Fairbanks would be very, very proud.

Harry Guerin